Preview: Lightnings at Bruins
The Boston Bruins are playing some of their best hockey of the season despite missing an important player as they prepare to host the NHL-best Tampa Bay Lightning for an Atlantic Division showdown on Thursday. The Bruins knocked off red-hot San Jose 4-1 on Tuesday to extend their point streak to 14 games (10-0-4), but All-Star David Pastrnak (thumb) has missed half of them.
“At this time of year, (we are) just focusing game by game,” Boston’s David Krejci told reporters. “Obviously, we know where we are at in the standings, and that’s where we want to be. But we know that it’s going to be a battle. Hockey in March is one of the hardest months of the season.” The Bruins sit 19 points behind Tampa Bay in the Atlantic but are just one ahead of Toronto for second place and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Tampa Bay set a franchise record on Wednesday with its 10th straight victory as it coughed up a two-goal lead before defenseman Victor Hedman scored in overtime for a 4-3 triumph over the New York Rangers as it matched Boston’s 14-game point streak (12-0-2) – all this month. Nikita Kucherov set up Hedman’s game-winner for his third assist of the contest and league-leading 104th point of the season for the Lightning, who can reach 50 wins on Thursday.
TV: 7:30 p.m. NBC Sports Network, Sportsnet One, Sportsnet East, Sportsnet Ontario, TVA
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (49-11-4): Kucherov is four points shy of matching the franchise single-season record set in 2006-07 by Vincent Lecavalier while Brayden Point reached 80 for the first time in his career on Wednesday with an assist. Captain Steven Stamkos added a pair of assists in the win, giving him 16 of his 77 points in his last 10 games, and J.T. Miller has scored in three of his last four contests. Andrei Vasilevskiy recorded his 29th win on Wednesday and is 9-0-2 with a .950 save percentage in February while backup Louis Domingue has won a franchise-best 11 straight starts.
ABOUT THE BRUINS (37-17-9): Brad Marchand has picked up his production level in linemate Pastrnak’s absence, collecting 17 of his team-high 74 points in the last 11 contests after scoring one goal and setting up two others on Tuesday. Krejci also has been a major factor during Boston’s 14-game run, registering five goals and 10 assists over the last 12 contests to push his season total to 55 points. Marcus Johansson notched an assist in his team debut on Tuesday, telling reporters: “It’s such a good team, you just go out and play, you don’t have to think too much.”
1. The Lightning were 6-for-6 on the penalty kill during Wednesday’s win and are 25-for-25 over their last seven contests.
2. Boston C Noel Acciari, who took a puck to the face in Tuesday’s game, is questionable to face the Lightning while D Kevan Miller (upper body) is doubtful.
3. Tampa Bay C Tyler Johnson’s goal in the first period against the Rangers was the 300th point of his career.